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Is a CIO really an Information Custodian?

by Jack Santos  |  July 1, 2010  |  2 Comments

Which of the following to do you most agree with?

It is a best practice for the Chief Information Officer to:

A)  Be directly responsible for the enterprise’s information in all its forms

B)   Be directly responsible for the enterprise’s information stored in electronic systems

C)   Ensure that the enterprise’s  information has business owners responsible for that information and that those owners are managing the information consistent with applicable company (and societal) principles, rules, and practices

D)   Ensure that the enterprise’s information has business owners responsible for that information and that the information is available to them consistent with applicable company (and societal) principles, rules, and practices, with agreed upon objectives (Such as SLAs)

E)   All of the above

F)   None of the above

I posed this question to our Gartner IT Professionals Data Management Strategies team.  They voted unanimously for C and D (combined).  Like true analysts, though, they do have suggestions and changes (we’ll cover that in a later post or document).

The reason I did this was for a reality check, and to see if I am on the same wavelength as the team.  I am!  I agree! Of course, the devil is in the details…

But I questioned myself because a recent articles and documents I reviewed has “A” as the sacrosanct role of the CIO.  And I did a double take. 

I then proceeded to question my marriage, faith, role in society, who my parents were, and even whether I existed or not.  I wondered whether I skipped that day at CIO school.

Then asked my compatriots. They brought me back from the brink, and for that I will always be eternally grateful.

This may, in fact, be the source of confusion in both business and IT that causes the “I” part of the responsibility to disappear…..Getting this  (and possibly other CIO/IT department role definitions) down to a succinct, clear, supportable  sound bite might be a real contribution to the profession.

Additional Resources

Category: cio-issues  it-governance  

Tags: cio  data-management  information  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Is a CIO really an Information Custodian?


  1. Gary Rogers says:

    Interesting question but your favored responses, C&D, seem to me to lack a key element in the responsibility of a CIO.

    Shouldn’t a CIO be responsible for provisioning to meet the needs of the business owners? How can a business owner manage the information consistent with company policies without the proper IT tools?

    The failure to provision for the protection of corporate intellectual property while at rest or in motion is a failure at the very top of the IT organization in my opinion.

  2. Jack Santos says:

    Thanks for the comment, Gary! You are absolutely right – I wasn’t trying to capture all of the responibilities of a CIO – but focusing on the “I”. Many CIOs (due to circumstance, background) are infrastructure focused, many are business system focused, and what seems to get lost sometimes is the information custodian role – with some confusion as to what that is. Your point that the delivery of tools to the business to help do that is well taken.



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